“I was offered the job at Peterson’s right out of school, and it was sink or swim.”
For McDaniel, the answer was obvious, and setting a precise career path at a young age paid off. McDaniel—who inherited her first name from her great-grandmother Hattie Behr, owner of the former Barringer’s Tavern, a southside fixture since 1879—went on to study baking and pastry arts at Johnson & Wales University in North Carolina and the Ecole Nationale Superieure de Patisserie in Yssingeaux, France. Back home, she landed the pastry-chef spot at Peterson’s. “I kind of shocked myself,” McDaniel says. “When I graduated from school, my plan was that in five years, I wanted to have a dessert on a menu somewhere. Then I was offered the job at Peterson’s right out of school, and it was sink or swim.” She stayed at Peterson’s for two and a half years before—at the age of 22—joining the equally high-profile Vida when it opened in January.
Her stunning meal-enders change every four weeks and include chunks of spiced carrot cake on a swoop of beet mousse, and a mascarpone-mousse “Creamcicle” with huckleberry sorbet and matcha meringue. But her personal preferences trend toward the simplest things. “My favorite dessert is soft-serve ice cream with rainbow sprinkles,” she says. “And anything that’s cake batter–flavored. Anything that takes me back to being a kid.”